These days we have so much information at our fingertips to help solve any parenting dilemma (admittedly, most of the times we may have too much). You could argue the Internet was both the best and worst thing to ever happen to parenting.
Despite the sometimes overwhelming amount of information, it’s still nice to consult a parenting expert once in a while to get some new ideas, advice and even a dose of perspective.
At LiveMom, we want to help answer your questions. We have a recurring feature called Ask the Expert, brought to you by Baylor Scott & White Health, that will take on a wide range of subjects, from potty training to car seats to dealing with kids and technology to anything in between.
Many of us look to December with a mixture of excitement and dread. Excitement because it’s the start of a new chapter in our family lives; the chance to set new goals and make course corrections. Dread because in Central Texas it comes with sniffles and sneezes, thanks to the area’s cedar trees expelling their pollen and making many of us miserable. Which leads us to this month’s question:
What is the best way to prepare for cedar season and minimize the impact of allergies which tend to start in December?
Up to 20 percent of Central Texans suffer from cedar pollen allergies. Cedar “fever” hasn’t officially hit us in Central Texas, but now is the most important time to start preparing for what’s to come. Early preparation is critical in getting ahead of your symptoms.
Karim Dhanani, MD, who is an Allergist at Baylor Scott & White Clinic – Round Rock, offers tips to help plan for cedar season, especially if you’re a newcomer to the Austin area.
First, your immune system needs at least six to 12 months to build up immunity to specific triggers like cedar. “So, if a patient knows they have a history of sensitivity to cedar, we need to get them treated early, in some cases with allergy shots; the earlier the better,” says Dr. Dhanani. “If we can nip it in the bud before the season starts, we can keep things manageable throughout the season. But, if you come in when you’re suffering at the peak of cedar season, then we won’t be able to do quite as much to help you.”
What is Mountain Cedar?
Mountain cedar produces pollen in the winter and grows plentifully in the Hill Country. When cold fronts blow in, they stir up the cedar pollen and this kicks off cedar fever. Many newcomers to the Austin area are not expecting to have allergies in the winter, so this catches many new residents by surprise.
The cedar allergy season in Central Texas is caused by a few different plants. The plants are so closely related that the pollen they produce is almost identical under a microscope. The male trees appear to “smoke” as they release pollen from tiny cones. The female trees produce clusters of blue/green berries. The season generally peaks from late December to early March.
Allergies to cedar pollen can be so bad that they’ve been dubbed ‘cedar fever’. The mountain cedar trees are everywhere in this region, and they produce significant amounts of pollen, leaving sufferers miserable. However, if you’re symptomatic to the point that it is affecting your quality of life, you don’t have to suffer. There are some treatments your physician may be able to recommend for relief — but you have to start early.
Once Cedar Arrives
Once you’ve started to experience the sneezing, runny nose, itchy/watery eyes and congestion, your physician can suggest over-the-counter remedies, which include antihistamines like Allegra, and regular salt-water rinses for the nose. “If that doesn’t do the trick, your doctor may prescribe Flonase or Nasonex for symptom relief and drinking plenty of water,” says Dr. Dhanani. In some cases, physicians recommend starting prophylaxis around Thanksgiving to prepare for what will happen once cedar hits. That includes the above mentioned remedies.
If you’re still not getting relief, see your physician.
As for why some suffer from allergies like cedar more than others, Dr. Dhanani says it’s mostly related to “genetics.” You may be genetically prone to getting allergies, but you also need to be living in a high-allergy environment, generally, in order for you to develop a problem.
Please contact your health care provider with any questions or concerns regarding your and your family’s health. You can schedule an appointment for if you are not feeling well by contacting Baylor Scott & White Clinic – Round Rock at 512-509-0200.